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New Zealand flags shorter Super Rugby season
February 28, 2014

The expanded 17-team Super Rugby competition may be one week shorter than the current tournament, according to New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew .

SANZAR is looking to expand the tournament to 17 teams in 2016, when a new broadcasting deal takes over, with a first Argentine side and a sixth South African team, based in Port Elizabeth, set to be included. The competition format is yet to be revealed, but it should be settled by June 30.

Tew could not reveal details, as Australia and South Africa are ratifying their preferred model, but he said that New Zealand had largely achieved what it wanted even with the expected need for future compromise.

He said that New Zealand and Australia had to decide whether to call South Africa's bluff regarding their threats to head to a northern-hemisphere competition. But he said that New Zealand wanted South African teams in the competition - primarily because of the money and the tough competition their teams provided, which were essential for the All Blacks players' build-up.

Tew said that South Africa had two non-negotiables - a sixth team and not travelling for more than five weeks - and they wanted a team out of Port Elizabeth and couldn't drop any of their "big five". South Africa also wanted a shorter season but Australia wanted a considerably longer one, he said. Tew said New Zealand's preferred model would see less travel for the players.

"In fact, if this is all agreed, we will have one less week of Super Rugby - which we think is a good win for New Zealand," he said. The competition might start in March rather than February, or possibly give the players a week off in June to prepare for Test matches, Tew said.

All the member countries wanted Argentina to remain in SANZAR, Tew said.

But he said that Argentina had warned that its national side would struggle, and wouldn't survive in the four-nation Rugby Championship, if its next generation of players weren't enticed out of Europe to play Super Rugby.

© AAP
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